This introduction argues that Alfred Tennyson’s conception of “rapt oration” is critical to the understanding of a quartet of his major dramatic monologues, “St. Simeon Stylites,” “Ulysses,” “Tithonus,” and “Tiresias,” all drafted after the death in 1833 of his friend, Arthur Henry Hallam, though published over the course of the ensuing half-century. An examination of a variety of Tennyson’s works, in particular In Memoriam, establishes “rapt oration” as a state in which both speaker and listener are “transported” by the speaker’s oratorical prowess. A desire for rapture, characterized by both personal and political transformation, motivates the speech and actions of each of Tennyson’s speakers in these dramatic monologues. This introduction additionally argues that these dramatic monologues should be considered in the context of nineteenth-century rapture theology, reform politics, classical scholarship (in particular theories on Homer), and sexological theory, as well as in the context of Tennyson’s relationships with a range of contemporaries, including Thomas Carlyle, William Gladstone, John Stuart Mill, and Heinrich Schliemann.
Keywords: Alfred Lord Tennyson, dramatic monologue, rapture, St. Simeon Stylites, Ulysses, Tithonus, Tiresias, In Memoriam, Arthur Henry Hallam, nineteenth-century reform politics, nineteenth-century classical scholarship, sexological theory, William Gladstone
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